Will Nike’s Bet On Chinese Women’s Sports Communities Pay Off?

    Nike has launched a new series of leggings for women in China, riding the pilates and yoga wave. Can it regain market share in the athleisure sector?
    Nike Zenvy gentle-support and Nike Go firm-support collections are major products highlighted in the brand's leggings category. Photo: Nike
      Published   in Retail


    Nike is eying the growing number of sportswear consumers in China with the launch of its new leggings campaign. To promote its recently released Nike Zenvy gentle-support and Nike Go firm-support collections, the brand unveiled a campaign video starring Chinese fashion designer Feng Chen Wang, KOL Chunlan and Niuniu. Meanwhile, a sponsored hashtag “Zone-Out Girls”(放空女孩) is live on Xiaohongshu to encourage a "chillax" lifestyle.

    In addition to the digital initiatives, Nike will host a series of offline gatherings in collaboration with local sports communities in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chengdu, from February 9 to March 5.

    Chinese designer Feng Chen Wang is featured in the Nike Leggings campaign. Photo: Nike
    Chinese designer Feng Chen Wang is featured in the Nike Leggings campaign. Photo: Nike

    Netizens’ Reaction#

    The campaign received positive feedback from Chinese netizens, driving over 20 million views for the campaign hashtag on Xiaohongshu. By partnering with a large number of female KOLs instead of A-list celebrities and athletes, Nike put the focus on the fit and function of the leggings, as well as the variety of Asian body types. One WeChat user @Shiwaxinge commented, “The ad is very impressive as it respects body diversity rather than sharpening the stereotypical aesthetics of Chinese women.”


    Though Nike is the largest seller of athletic footwear and apparel in the world and has maintained a leading position in the sector, its market shares have been diluted by global and local disruptors in recent years. In China, large companies such as Anta, Li-Ning, Lululemon, as well as domestic DTC labels like Maia Active and Neiwai Active have aggressively expanded their offerings and channels. With the rising popularity of workouts like yoga and pilates among local sports enthusiasts, many brands have nimbly tapped into the trend and cultivated their awareness via word-of-mouth marketing.

    However, Nike’s efforts in targeting the leggings category seems to be slow. In January 2019, Nike launched its first-ever apparel collection designed specifically for yoga, and in April 2020, it debuted its first yoga-focused campaign in the Chinese market. Though the sportswear brand has released yoga workouts on the Nike Training Club app, building connections with local communities requires time. As its sportswear competitors expand to lower-tier cities to win over a broader customer base, Nike has its work cut out for it.

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